Blitz memorabilia

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
The boy’s school topic this term is the Blitz. Over the years I have collected up a few bits and pieces of Blitz memorabilia, more by accident than through any real effort.

As a born and bred Londoner, this has always been a topic of great interest to me. My best friend at primary school had an original Anderson Shelter in his garden and it was the best play den ever. Most of the roads I’ve lived in have subtle signs of Blitz damage, with newer houses strangely erected between rows of Victorian terraces. I always found this fascinating.

I also have a great great uncle who was an AFS (and later NFS) firefighter based at Beckenham. He survived the Blitz but was tragically killed in a bizarre PT accident in 1942. His name is on the Blitz firefighter’s memorial outside St Paul’s. Beckenham firefighters were based at the Old Palace School which took a direct hit during the Blitz, killing 34 people (still the biggest loss of UK firefighters in a single incident). It’s almost certain that he would’ve been involved in this incident, either losing oppos in the blast and / or being involved in the cleanup. I would be very interested to know more about his NFS service. Do the fire brigade have service records like the military? Anyone know where they would be available?

In my continual quest to be the most epic dad on the planet, I’m helping the boy with a little research on our relative and on the bits and pieces below so he can take them to school for a bit of show and tell.

The ARP box, gas rattle and Zuckerman helmet all came from my grandmother’s house. They weren’t originally her’s, she just hoarded things and probably found these in a skip. She was a bit of a loon and quite deaf. In later life she would wear the Zuckerman helmet while watching TV because she thought it amplified the sound. The gas rattle has “A.R.P W. Clements & Sons 1939” stamped on it but some of the letters have faded. The P on ARP is gone and the 9 from 39 looks like a zero.

The warden’s report form came from my grandfather. He was a teenager during the Blitz and a member of the Air Training Corps. I’m guessing the ATC may have acted as runners or something? Not sure why he would’ve had this form otherwise. To be honest I can’t be 100% sure it is even from the Blitz. He did his National service in Palestine just after the war and it could be from then. He was also somewhat of a hoarder and kept every single piece of paper from his service, including NAAFI receipts for boot polish.

Just a thread for general interest really, but I’d be interested in any additional info anyone can provide on the items and any Blitz stories you may have that will interest an 11 year old.

Also does anyone know what HFP stands for on the helmet? I’ve seen them before with SFP but HFP seems rarer. I’m assuming it’s “something” Fire Patrol. My grandmother was from Hampstead and that’s probably where she found the helmet. Hampstead Fire Patrol maybe?

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Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Very interesting site about the old palace school bombing.

Wishful thinking but I wonder if my relative is in any of these pics?

 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Fireman A.L. TOMBLING.
Beckenham.
22nd July 1942.
TOMBLING, Civilian, ARTHUR LESLIE, Civilian War Dead. 22nd July 1942. Fireman, N.F.S. Son of Mrs. A. E. Tombling. Died at Beckenham.
The Beckenham Journal of Saturday, 1st August reported the Coroner‟s investigation; (the account is heavily précised here);
“Arthur‟s stepfather gave evidence of identification and said that his nephew entered the A.F.S. in 1938 and had been in full time service for the past 12 months. He was stationed at the Lloyds Bank Sports Ground, Cope Road, Beckenham, and about four months ago started a physical training course as a member of the N.F.S.
Arthur had left for duty the previous Monday morning. The stepfather related how he and his wife had been summoned to Beckenham Hospital on Tuesday evening and arrived in time to see their nephew being taken to the operating theatre. They were told his condition was‟ very bad‟. Dr. John Moore said that when admitted to hospital Tumbling‟s leg were paralysed and his arms almost so. He recovered quite well from the operation and passed a good night in hospital but he died at 0725 hrs the following morning.
Sidney Lea, a N.F.S. P.T. instructor at Beckenham Fire Station and previously, for five years, an Army P.T.I. said that on Tuesday afternoon he was instructing fourteen volunteers for a Bank Holiday display. They were undertaking an agility exercise known as the “fish dive”. The exercise used a rope about 12 feet long which was held taught, two feet above the ground, by two men. Two coconut mats were laid on the ground and the gap between the rope and the mats was about 1 foot. The exercise involved a diving forward roll over the rope..
The deceased had performed the exercise twice before and had landed clumsily but did not appear to have hurt himself. On the third attempt he took a longer run and seemed to land with the full weight of his body on the back of his head.
The Coroner recorded a verdict of ”Death by Misadventure”.

A couple of years ago I had to visit Lambeth Fire Station for work and there is a small chapel and various memorials in there including an AFS memorial.

Arthur’s name is on there, as well as the one at St Paul’s. By all accounts Lambeth station is being sold off, no doubt for very expensive riverside flats. I really hope the memorials are properly preserved and moved to an appropriate New location. If I’m honest I wasn’t that impressed to see the chapel being used as a BA training room and storage area.
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HFP - House Fire Party. A sort of first responder to incendiaries before the NFS/AFS got on scene (if required).

As an aside, the idea still had life when I was at school - we had Fire Parties as late as 1987, which'd have seen 5th and 6th formers rush to the site of a fire, and - if it were small - tackle it with extinguishers and those hose reel things mounted on the walls of schools, libraries, etc, to await the arrival of

The fire parties ceased just as I got into 5th form - didn't think about it at the time, but I suspect that someone may have wondered whether the H&S aspect of having a party of over-confident 16-18 year olds attacking a fire was a good idea...

In the final year of their existence, one fire party contained Prew, Trew, Barnes, Marklew and Cuthbert [Darryl, Iain, Mike, Simon and Adrian, if I remember their 1st names correctly] which led to the opportunity for many Trumpton-based spoof notices in assembly with the addition of the non-existent 6th formers Dibble & Grubb to the roll call.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
HFP - House Fire Party. A sort of first responder to incendiaries before the NFS/AFS got on scene (if required).

As an aside, the idea still had life when I was at school - we had Fire Parties as late as 1987, which'd have seen 5th and 6th formers rush to the site of a fire, and - if it were small - tackle it with extinguishers and those hose reel things mounted on the walls of schools, libraries, etc, to await the arrival of

The fire parties ceased just as I got into 5th form - didn't think about it at the time, but I suspect that someone may have wondered whether the H&S aspect of having a party of over-confident 16-18 year olds attacking a fire was a good idea...

In the final year of their existence, one fire party contained Prew, Trew, Barnes, Marklew and Cuthbert [Darryl, Iain, Mike, Simon and Adrian, if I remember their 1st names correctly] which led to the opportunity for many Trumpton-based spoof notices in assembly with the addition of the non-existent 6th formers Dibble & Grubb to the roll call.
Fantastic cheers. That’s cleared up an old mystery. This helmet has been in my family for decades and no one ever knew what HFP stood for.
 

slick

LE
My gran`s brother was killed while firewatching in Devonport Dockyard during WW2, not an unusual occurrence given the destruction in Plymouth at the time. Some old boy I worked with during my apprenticeship, had been in the Merchant Navy during the war. Whilst on leave, the siren had gone off and he ran for a communal shelter in the next street. He got to around a hundred yards away when a bomb went straight in at the entrance, the blast still knocked him for six, and killed everyone in the shelter.
I can still remember in the 1960s in Plymouth, a fair few buildings held up by massive timbers on the side where other buildings had been blown away, and lots of old bomb sites which had been hastily tarmaced and used as childrens playgrounds with slides and swings installed.
A good site on WW2 civil defence at this link.... Home - WW2 Civil Defence Uniforms, Insignia & Equipment
 
Fantastic cheers. That’s cleared up an old mystery. This helmet has been in my family for decades and no one ever knew what HFP stood for.

That's not 100% definitive, but most likely - records show that it was used for civil defence organisations in India and Ceylon and these were modelled on the UK system and I'm 99% sure that's what it stood for here - just can't find the source I dug out at the moment (and the splendidly named Helmets of the Home Front probably contains the definitive answer if anyone has it to hand)
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
My gran`s brother was killed while firewatching in Devonport Dockyard during WW2, not an unusual occurrence given the destruction in Plymouth at the time. Some old boy I worked with during my apprenticeship, had been in the Merchant Navy during the war. Whilst on leave, the siren had gone off and he ran for a communal shelter in the next street. He got to around a hundred yards away when a bomb went straight in at the entrance, the blast still knocked him for six, and killed everyone in the shelter.
I can still remember in the 1960s in Plymouth, a fair few buildings held up by massive timbers on the side where other buildings had been blown away, and lots of old bomb sites which had been hastily tarmaced and used as childrens playgrounds with slides and swings installed.
Some interesting war history in Guzz, not least the bombed out church.
 
HFP - House Fire Party. A sort of first responder to incendiaries before the NFS/AFS got on scene (if required).

As an aside, the idea still had life when I was at school - we had Fire Parties as late as 1987, which'd have seen 5th and 6th formers rush to the site of a fire, and - if it were small - tackle it with extinguishers and those hose reel things mounted on the walls of schools, libraries, etc, to await the arrival of

The fire parties ceased just as I got into 5th form - didn't think about it at the time, but I suspect that someone may have wondered whether the H&S aspect of having a party of over-confident 16-18 year olds attacking a fire was a good idea...

In the final year of their existence, one fire party contained Prew, Trew, Barnes, Marklew and Cuthbert [Darryl, Iain, Mike, Simon and Adrian, if I remember their 1st names correctly] which led to the opportunity for many Trumpton-based spoof notices in assembly with the addition of the non-existent 6th formers Dibble & Grubb to the roll call.
Off topic but apposite.

I volunteered to be IBM Hursley fire warden in 97 (as well as software engineer. If I was sent out on site, they'd need another fire warden. I could equally have volunteered as a First Aider, but the roles were mutually exclusive for obvious reasons) because it was a nine mile drive to work and I was fed up of weekly commutes and hotels.

There were still hose reels in all the stair wells. At some time, unnoticed by me, they were removed. The stair wells were certified 30 min fire and smoke proof (probably 60 min safe), and provided a refuge for disabled staff if they couldn't get down the stairs before the Fire Brigade turned up (Winchester and Eastleigh competed to respond first).

Then it was realised that if an amateur fire fighter took the hose reel through the fire door, the fire and smoke seal was compromised.
 
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SFP = Street Fire Party (little did UK civil defence know that their role classifications would end up sounding like albums by groups of young men in baggy trousers from circa 1995...]
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Bomb sites made interesting, but sometimes dangerous, playgrounds for kids. Visiting London in the 50s, there were still plenty to be seen. Not forgetting the ubiquitous buddlieas which thrived on them. @Ravers - the letter could be included in you lad's project.
 
Then it was realised that if an amateur fire fighter took the hose reel through the fire door, the fire and smoke seal was compromised.

Good point - thinking about the layout of the hose reels, these were just behind the fire doors. In essence, the fire party would go through the doors, shut them behind them and then unwind the hose reel/pick up extinguishers and advance on the fire, safe in the knowledge that even if they were overcome by smoke and flame in the process, the fire doors behind them (and those beyond them at the other end of the corridor) would protect their fellow pupils...

I suspect that someone on the staff may have had a similar lightbulb moment in the summer of 1987....


ETA - which reminds me of, and probably explains, our Deputy Head's/2nd in command CCF's comment 'The boys here are not easily inflamed' to a Brigadier visiting us on inspection day when he saw the hose reels. I was at the back of the party and didn't hear all the conversation. I may have pointed out that I only realised that our utterly bonkers officers had pretty much ensured that our contingent would be the basis of any local Auxiliary Forces in the event of any unexpected Soviet desant operations in the Walsall area, so losing a few pupils on fire-fighting duties wouldn't have unduly perturbed them...
 
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He was a teenager during the Blitz and a member of the Air Training Corps. I’m guessing the ATC may have acted as runners or something?
Correct. A number of youth organisations did this sort of thing, as far as I can tell. However it was not hugely publicised, in fear that enemy propaganda would suggest that we were on our knees, and having to use youth labour to survive.
Arthur’s name is on there, as well as the one at St Paul’s. By all accounts Lambeth station is being sold off, no doubt for very expensive riverside flats. I really hope the memorials are properly preserved and moved to an appropriate New location.
In the short term, fear not - as the planning application has been thrown out for the second/third time. You are right, however, that the bulk of the block is now a burden on the LFB in the 21st Century.
Do the fire brigade have service records like the military? Anyone know where they would be available?
Try via The Worshipful Company of Fire-Fighters: Worshipful Company of Firefighters

As ever, an excellent thread by @Ravers
 
if you go on a site called uk fire service.co.uk, iiirc someone has done a lot of research on the school AFS station that was bombed, naming all the FFTRS etc if you cannot find it pm me
 
As a young boy I was given a quantity of shrapnel by an old lady who had lived in the road for many years. The area hadn't particularly attracted the attentions of the Luftwaffe during the Blitz although there were a few bombings locally and a number of V weapon strikes towards the latter part of the war.

That IWM bomb strike map does show a fair few hits in the near vicinity.

I still have the shrapnel in an old tin somewhere. I'm not sure if they come from German ordnance or were the detritus from AA activity.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
I also have a WW2 gas mask knocking around somewhere but for the life of me I can’t find it. I think I bought it at a surplus stall at RIAT when I was a kid.

Haven’t seen it for years actually. Might be in a box full of old redundant RN uniforms and junk that I haven’t bothered to bin.

Same as this…

Probably a good thing I can’t find it. By all accounts the filters contain asbestos. Probably why I have chronic asthma now.

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mack_583

Clanker
Ref Anderson shelters, there are still loads round here - repurposed as sheds like these 2
 
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